The Grand Hyatt Kauai is one of the largest resorts on the island and has everything you could ever want in a mega beach resort. It’s a combo of over the top “grand” architecture, impressive grounds and pools, and activities and offerings everywhere you turn that make it one of the best Kauai hotels for families.
I recently spent a full week at the Grand Hyatt Kauai with my family (although we’re not kids anymore ; ) and like usual tried to do and see it all so I could bring the very best info back to YOU so you’ll be all set for your vacation.
Grand Hyatt Kauai: The Best Kauai Hotel for Families
So here’s everything you need to know about the Grand Hyatt Kauai, including why it’s the best Kauai hotel for families:
From the minute you pull onto the property, you’re going to be impressed. It’s just one of those kinds of places where you never quite get over the scale. It doesn’t have “Grand” in the name for nothing. The lobby is a huge open air affair with distant ocean views. So much marble. So much over the top architecture. So many parrots and orchids.
It’s a mega resort in the true sense of the word. It’s an enormous property, and I’ve heard some people say they walked 5 miles a day just hanging out at the resort.
It’s so lush and well manicured, and everywhere you turn there’s a magnificent view. The staff are friendly and helpful, and there’s just about everything onsite that you could ever need. But there’s no way you could call it “stuffy.” It’s a true Hawaiian beach resort in that it’s as casual and laid back as they come.
The room here felt like a classic Hawaiian beach resort and the balcony was perfect for waiting to take turns in the shower after everybody’s come in from the pool and beach. That little bit of extra space always makes a big difference when you’ve got several people in one room.
For being such a family oriented resort, I was a little surprised that the rooms weren’t set up better though. We had two queen sized beds and there was only a night stand (and power outlets) in the middle between the two beds. I slept on the outer side of one of the beds and ended up using my carryon suitcase as a little makeshift nightstand. Also this is the reason that I travel with a 10ft phone charger…you just never know. Now there was a nice little charging station with power outlets plus USB and lightning outlets, but it was on the other side of the room.
There was a mini fridge and a coffee set up too. And plenty of drawers and hanging space in the closet and TV stand.
The bathroom was large and modern (including the fanciest toilet I’ve ever seen) plus the shower had a ledge in the tile at the perfect height for shaving your legs. It’s the little things ; )
Can a hotel that’s always a contender for the best beach resort in Hawaii get away with sitting on a beach where you can’t swim? Well, they do here. You’d be surprised by how many beaches on Kauai aren’t swimmable due to strong currents, big waves, etc. And Shipwreck Beach (in front of the Grand Hyatt) is one of them.
It’s never advisable to swim here, but this time when I stayed there (late May) the waves were HUGE (even the locals were impressed) so they really weren’t even wanting people on the beach.
Despite the rough conditions, it’s not uncommon to see Hawaiian monk seals sunning themselves on the sand (they’re endangered so do not get close) so that’s pretty special.
And there’s also a nice coastal trail that winds to the west of the resort and if you hike up through the cliffs at the east end of Shipwreck Beach (for the love of all things holy, please don’t jump) there are amazing views.
This is the big attraction. Since you can’t swim in the ocean, they really make up for it with all of the pool areas. It’s a whole complex really. There are several different pool areas, with most of them being connected by a lazy river, plus a pretty good sized waterslide.
The adults only pool is up at the very top, and like many adults only pools…it usually seemed a little rowdier than the pool where all of the kids were.
One thing I really didn’t like about the pool area was the decking. Since the pool area is so large, depending on where you’re sitting it can be a pretty far walk to the water slide or the top of the lazy river. And in a lot of places they’ve used a large flat natural stone which is super slick and super hot. In some places they have long rugs stretched out to make it a little more bearable, but if you’re got kids who move from one place to another a lot then they may want water shoes.
They do allow floats in the pools and lazy river and they both rent and sell them at the activity desk, but you can bring your own too. We were given some by a family that was checking out, but honestly there wasn’t much current in the lazy river (it’s more of a winding waterway that connects different pool areas).
Also to make up for the beach situation, there’s a HUGE saltwater man made lagoon that sits close to the ocean. It’s fun to swim in, but I didn’t love sitting by it. They’ve got it filled with sand, but it’s the really coarse kind (like the kind you buy at Home Depot) and if you find a patch where it’s bare and the concrete is peeking through, it’s a little rough on your feet. If you’re late going down to get chairs at the pool though, there are usually a lot of options around the lagoon.
Speaking of getting chairs…here’s the chair saving situation at the Grand Hyatt: it’s not as bad as most beach resorts in Hawaii! I’ve stayed at resorts where getting decent pool chairs requires a strategy that a four star general would be proud of, but it was a little more chill here.
Yes, there are the crazies who go down at 6AM and put towels on the chairs they want, but it’s definitely not the majority. By 8-9AM we were always able to find a good spot and on the days we came in the afternoon, there were always chairs around the lagoon.
Also I figured out this trick a few days in…people would put towels on chairs early, but the activity desk where you get your towels and wristbands didn’t open until 8AM. So I think a lot of people were getting fresh towels at the end of the day and taking them to their rooms so they’d have them ready to use early. Geez.
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At a resort this size, they try to have enough dining options so you feel like you don’t ever need to leave and while they have some really convenient options, you’re definitely going to want to leave the resort for good food ; )
Ilima Terrace: We had breakfast for two included here every morning so we went here a few times. It’s your standard large scale Hawaiian resort buffet. Pretty much everything you could want…omelet bar, french toast/pancakes/waffles, bacon, eggs, potatoes plus a full continental spread and a lot of juices. And like pretty much every big resort buffet in Hawaii, they’ve got a lot of the Asian staples too like miso soup, kimchi rice, dumplings, etc. At $40 per person, it may not be a good every day option if it’s not included, plus it’s just a TON of food. On days we mostly stayed at the resort, we ended up going about 10:30-11AM and not really eating again until dinner.
Seaview Terrace: We stopped by this little kiosk in the lobby a couple of mornings when we had an early excursion for coffee and pastries. Way better option if you’re in a hurry than trying to do Starbucks or Little Fish Coffee (both in the area).
Hale Nalu: This counter service/fast food spot by the pool ended up being the best option for getting food midday at the pool. There were some servers going around taking food and drink orders around the pool and lagoon, but we found it muuuuuch faster to walk over and just order for ourselves.
There’s also a bar hut between the lower level of the pool and the lagoon which was always super fast to just walk up and get drinks.
But whether you order at Hale Nalu or from a server at the pool, it’s all the same menu. After a week, here’s what I can tell you:
Food: The burger was the real winner. Also loved the chicken quesadillas and the hummus plate for a lighter option.
Drinks: The lilikoi margarita (blended) was the best drink I had all week. Good mojito. Frose was pretty good, “Locals Only” was a little dull, the Koloa Raspberry Lemonade was better. And the smoothies were a big hit. You can customize your flavors and add liquor.
Stevenson’s Library: I did not go here, but some others I was traveling with did and weren’t super impressed. Honestly, it always smelled like bad fish every time we walked by. It’s mostly sushi and it’s worth noting that it’s one of only like 2 places on the island that’s open after 10PM. You think I’m kidding.
Tidepools: Tidepools is definitely the Grand Hyatt’s premier restaurant and has the reputation for being one of the most romantic restaurants on the island. Well, it’s certainly hard to get a reservation. We booked this trip about a month in advance and Tidepools was booked out about three months in advance. But I was able to snag a last minute reservation with an alert on OpenTable. I did a full review of Tidepools (and other fine dining-ish places in Poipu) in this post.
To sum it up, I’ve had better food elsewhere, but the atmosphere at Tidepools is really special and it’s comparable pricewise to other nice restaurants in Poipu. If you can get a reservation, you should definitely go.
I’ve done a full post about my experience at the Anara Spa at the Grand Hyatt here, but to recap: Anara is one of the largest and most “luxury” spas on Kauai. Actually, it pretty much is the spa scene on Kauai.
I had a facial and while it wasn’t one of the best I’ve ever had, it was overall a nice, relaxing experience.
Make your spa reservations in advance. If you wait until you arrive, it’s likely that they’ll already be all booked up for the week.
If you don’t have a treatment scheduled, you can purchase a day pass for $30 to use the facilities including the lap pool, eucalyptus steam room, whirlpool, etc.
And if you’re a shopper, you’ll definitely want to walk over to check out the shop at the spa. They have things that you won’t find in the other shops at the resort.
All of the extras
There is so much going on at this resort that they print up a weekly schedule just to keep it all straight. And here’s a tip: if there’s an activity on the schedule that you want to participate in, reserve your spot in advance. Like maybe before you even arrive. I wanted to do the lei making workshop, but it was full a couple of days before.
Here’s a link to the recent activity schedule (it could be different for your travel times). But it will at least give you an idea of what to expect.
What I love about this resort
Besides everything I’ve already mentioned about this lovely resort, here are some more specific things I really loved about staying at the Grand Hyatt Kauai:
Okay, this is going to sound weird. But one of my favorite things about this resort is the refillable water bottle situation. I told you it was weird. They provide each guest with a refillable water bottle when you arrive (there were two in our room, but you can ask for more at the front desk) and there are water refill stations EVERYWHERE around this resort…on every floor of the resort by the ice machines, throughout the lobby and the pool area.
Besides the nod towards the environment and conservation, I drink a LOT of water (especially when I’m at the pool or beach) and I hate always having to search for it or buy plastic bottles. It was so easy to just get up from my chair and go fill my water bottle up.
And on that note…I also liked that pretty much everything at this resort is set up for you to easily serve yourself. The labor shortage is still felt so acutely in the travel industry so anytime things are set up where I can just easily help myself, I’m thrilled.
What am I talking about? For starters, this is one of the few big beach resorts in Hawaii that still has self parking (so many now only have valet) so you don’t have to wait for the valet to bring your car around. And I already touched on the food and beverage situation around the pool. Most big resorts in Hawaii don’t have a food and snack stand where you can just walk up and order and take your food to go. And if they do, it’s not located very conveniently to the pool.
I also really like the location of this resort in Poipu. It’s close to everything that Poipu has to offer (shops, restaurants, luaus, sports clubs, beaches, other resorts), but it’s still a bit isolated and off to itself which means that the hotel grounds aren’t crawling with people who aren’t staying there.
If you don’t have a rental car (or you don’t want to worry about parking, being able to have a few drinks, etc.) the resort has a courtesy car that will take you anywhere in the Poipu and Koloa area. We used it one evening to go down to the Shops at Kukui’ula before everyone was ready to leave for dinner and it was pretty seamless. We just walked down to the valet and told them where we wanted to go and we ended up in the car headed out in about three minutes.
The valet is in constant contact with the driver to know where he is and where he’s going so they know exactly how long it’ll be to get picked up (assuming the driver is out doing drop offs). And they keep everyone organized in order of arrival. There were already two other couples waiting when we walked up, but we all piled in the Suburban when it arrived and they arranged us in the car in order of where we were being dropped off.
Our driver gave us a card when he dropped us off so we could call him for a ride back (we only needed it one way though). It’s a good idea to have cash to tip too. There’s not a tip jar and the driver doesn’t mention it, but since it’s a free ride I would imagine you’d tip at least $5/ride.
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Is it a true luxury resort?
Probably not. This is the last thing I have to say about this resort, really, and it’s not a negative but I just like to accurately describe things so that YOU feel good about what you’re booking.
While I really love the Grand Hyatt, it is not on the same level as the Four Seasons or other luxury resorts in Hawaii. I think the Grand Hyatt often gets described as luxury because it’s very grand on a large scale, offers a lot of amenities, and honestly, it is at the very high end of what Kauai has to offer.
But if you’re used to true luxury properties, it’s just not quite that. And that mostly comes down to service. Not that it’s bad here, but it’s not really designed to be super attentive in most areas.
You kind of have to go hunt down whatever you need, which honestly works for me, but if you’re used to places where someone is going to come around the pool with a pitcher to refill your water glass everytime you take a sip…this isn’t that kind of place. Which is kind of the other side of the coin from what I said I liked about this place above…self service. So it really just depends on what you’re expecting from a resort.
Is it a good resort for a honeymoon or adults only trip?
Sure! While I think this property caters to families best, there is an adults only pool and overall it’s just such a nice place for EVERYONE. But if it’s my money, I’d be down the street at the Koa Kea Hotel ; ) It’s a small boutique hotel with tremendous service and while it’s not adults only, it doesn’t have much to appeal to kids so they don’t get as many of them.
Where to Book
Book your stay (or check rates) at the Grand Hyatt Kauai here.
Still Looking for a Place to Stay?
Here’s one more really important thing you need to know before your Hawaii trip…
Reservations You Need to Make BEFORE Your Hawaii Trip
You’ve got your airfare, hotel, rental car and your big activities booked, so you should be good to go, right? Wrong!
Travel is BOOMING in Hawaii so a lot of state and national parks used the closure and reopening to institute reservation systems at some of the island’s most popular spots to make things a little more sustainable.
That means that there are now over half a dozen sites (beaches, trailheads, etc.) that require advance reservations. And some sell out well before you arrive on the island so you really need to have some sort of a plan.
I recently saw somebody in a Hawaii travel group post in a panic that they didn’t know they had to make reservations for things in advance…they thought they could just show up and “go with the flow.” I was tempted to say, well, “as long as the flow doesn’t take you somewhere that requires reservations, you can!” ; )
But I don’t want YOU to be that person, so I’ve pulled together a list of all the places you need to reserve entry in advance (plus all the details on booking windows, price, links, etc.) and a handful of popular tourist hotspots that book out really far in advance too.
Haleakala National Park (Maui)
To visit Haleakala National Park for sunrise at the summit, you must make reservations in advance here.
Reservations are required to enter the park gates between 3AM and 7AM (sunrise hours).
Online reservations are $1 per reservation/vehicle PLUS you’ll pay the park entrance fee of $30/vehicle when you arrive (National Park annual passes are also accepted at the gate).
The reservation booking window opens 60 days in advance at 7AM HST. There are also a limited number of tickets released two days before.
You can make one reservation every three days with the same account. So if you want to make reservations for back to back days (in case of weather/conditions), you’ll need to do so with separate accounts (email addresses).
If you can’t get reservations for sunrise, you can enter the park anytime after 7AM without reservations. The summit is spectacular during the day and you don’t need reservations for sunset.
I strongly recommend creating an account before and making sure you’re logged in at 7AM HST because it’s not uncommon for reservations to sell out quickly.
Waianapanapa State Park (Maui)
To visit Maui’s famous black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park on the Road to Hana, you must make reservations in advance here.
Reservations are required to visit the beach and are distributed in windows from 7AM-10AM, 10AM-12:30PM, 12:30PM-3PM, and 3PM-6PM. And they are pretty strict about exiting by the end of your window time (you can arrive anytime within your window).
It’s $5/person to enter plus $10/vehicle to park and those fees are paid when you book your time slot.
Reservations open up 30 days in advance.
Iao Valley State Park (Maui)
To visit the lush, green mountains and hike at Iao Valley State Park, you must make reservations in advance here.
Reservations are offered for 90 minute time slots beginning at 7AM and ending at 6PM. They ask that you arrive within the first 30 minutes of your time slot.
Entry is $5/person plus $10/vehicle to park.
Reservations open up 30 days in advance.
Diamond Head (Oahu)
To hike to the top of Waikiki’s famous Diamond Head, you must make reservations in advance here.
Reservations are offered in two hour increments beginning at 6AM (6AM-8AM, 8AM-10AM, etc.) and ending at 6PM. If you’re parking onsite, they ask that you arrive within the first 30 minutes of your reservation window.
Entry is $5/person plus $10/vehicle to park.
Reservations open up 30 days in advance.
Tip: I recommend booking one of the first two time slots because there isn’t much shade on this hike and it gets pretty hot.
Hanauma Bay (Oahu)
To snorkel at Oahu’s pristine Hanauma Bay, you must make reservations in advance here.
Entry times are staggered in 10 minute increments from 7AM to 1:20PM with roughly 1000 slots being assigned in advance every day.
Reservations can be made two days in advance and they open at 7AM HST. They’re usually gone in minutes (if not seconds).
If you’re unable to get an advanced reservation, you can try for a day of, walk in ticket. They open at 6:45AM and they only have a limited number available. Everyone in your group needs to be present when you purchase your tickets in person.
There are no reservations for parking and it’s first come, first serve. $3/vehicle.
It’s $25/person to snorkel at Hanauma Bay (12 and under, active military, and locals with HI ID are free).
The Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is open Wednesday through Sunday (CLOSED MONDAY AND TUESDAY) from 6:45AM-4PM. Last entry is at 1:30PM, the beach is cleared at 3:15PM and you have to leave the facility by 4PM.
Jellyfish patterns can also affect whether or not the bay is open so double check the day before/day of.
USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor (Oahu)
If you want to take the boat tour at Pearl Harbor out to the USS Arizona, it’s recommended to make advance reservations here.
Online reservations are guaranteed a specific boarding time to go out to the USS Arizona. If you’re unable to get an advance reservation, you can wait standby when you arrive. The line could be short (15 minutes or so) or long (hours) and it just depends on the day (if they’re having problems with the loading dock sometimes they don’t take many from the standby line) and the time of day.
Reservations are supposed to open up 60 days in advance, but keep an eye on your exact dates, because lately they’ve actually been opening up about 57ish days in advance???
They also release a small batch of tickets the day before.
The boat ride out to the USS Arizona is free, but it’s $1 to make the reservations online.
They recently started charging $7/vehicle for parking at Pearl Harbor.
Haena State Park / Kalalau Trail (Kauai)
If you want to hike Kauai’s famous Kalalau Trail, you must make advance reservations here.
You’ve got three options here:
1) Parking & Entry: This is the most flexible option and also the most limited. THESE RESERVATIONS SELL OUT IN LESS THAN A MINUTE. There are three time slots available: 6:30AM-12:30PM, 12:30PM-5:30PM and 4:30PM to sunset. You can purchase multiple time slots if you want to stay longer. It’s $10/timeslot (parking) plus $5/person and you have to reserve every person when you initially book. Everybody has to arrive in the same car and your ID needs to match the reservation.
2) Shuttle & Entry: If you can’t get parking at the trailhead, there’s also a shuttle option. Shuttle reservations are $35/person (16+), $25/person (ages 4-15), 3 and under can ride free. The shuttle runs every 20 minutes 6:20AM to 6:40PM.
3) Entry Only: If you’re a Hawaiian resident (with HI ID) or someone WITH a Hawaiian resident, you can purchase entry only for $5/person with no advance reservations. Also, if you’re walking or biking to the trailhead you can do this option. But there is NOWHERE to park in the area to walk in. So this really only works for those with bikes or who are staying close enough to walk. They will tow your car if you park outside the designated areas.
The reservation window opens 30 days in advance at 12AM HST. The parking & entry option usually sells out in a minute, but the shuttle availability will last longer.
There are a TON of FAQs here including the possibility of snagging a canceled reservation.
Other Things to Book in Advance
Hawaii is a busy place these days! Besides the state and national parks above, here’s a handful of miscellaneous things you should make reservations for in advance (if they’re on your radar):
Mama’s Fish House (Maui): The iconic spot is the most popular restaurant in Hawaii and they’ve been opening reservations (and selling out) 4-6 months in advance. You can call and get on the waitlist for one day or you can set notifications on OpenTable to alert you for cancellations every day of your trip. Most people have pretty good success on OpenTable.
Old Lahaina Luau (Maui): Honestly, any luau you’re planning to attend you should book early, but most people are usually shocked how far out the Old Lahaina Luau books out. Book it as soon as you know your dates (I think they open at the six month window). They also have a waitlist.
Kualoa Ranch UTV Tour (Oahu): Everybody loves Jurassic Park so getting to ride UTVs where they filmed the movies is very popular. The ranch offers a lot of different tours but the UTV tours usually book out a couple of months in advance.
Spa Reservations: If you’re staying at a resort with a spa (or planning on visiting one), don’t wait until you arrive to make your reservations. I’d make them at least a month in advance.
Tee Times: Same for golf, reserve your tee times well in advance.
Dining Reservations: Any “fancy” or resort restaurant is likely to be booked up these days so if you like having a nice dinner every night, make your plans in advance.
Want to read more? Don’t miss some of my most popular (and favorite) posts about Kauai: my personal Kauai favorites, a breakdown of where to stay on Kauai comparing Princeville vs Poipu, my favorite restaurants in Poipu, the best places to watch sunset on Kauai, 5 day Kauai itinerary, my review of the Grand Hyatt Kauai, everything you need to know about Napali Coast boat tours leaving from Port Allen (south side) and Hanalei (north shore), my best Kauai travel tips, all about hiking the Kalalau trail (Kauai’s best hike), Maui vs Kauai, the best things to do on Kauai and more specifically in Hanalei and Poipu, whether you should see the Napali Coast via boat or helicopter, my best (and specific) condo recommendations on Kauai, everything you need to know about Kauai helicopter tours, Kauai’s best north shore beaches, where to play tennis on Kauai, how many days you should spend on Kauai (plus other FAQs), the best spas on Kauai, and my review of the Smith Family Luau.
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